The way we work is evolving fast. While there are still plenty of 9 to 5 jobs around, this trend is changing, and within a decade it is possible that many more of us will be working remotely, freelancing, or collaborating online with people across the globe.
What exactly is changing?
Depending on the industry, some of the shifts include:
- Increase in virtual teamwork – such as collaborating with others on projects online, in some cases even cross-culturally / globally.
- More remote work – such as working at home or in another location other than the main business office.
- Workplace redesign – some workspaces are being redesigned so that rather than having lots of cubicles, work is being designed around collaborative spaces where ideas are generated and shared.
- Greater emphasis on flexibility – in many workplaces, people are calling for greater work/life balance rather than the traditional 9 to 5 schedule.
- A shift to self-employment – as the ‘secure job for life’ goes by the wayside, people may look for other alternatives such as outsourcing, self employment, contracting, freelancing, and entrepreneurship.
- Flatter organisational structures – a move away from the traditional top down organisational structure towards greater collaboration and power-sharing.
- Changes in consumer behaviour – such as more online purchasing which reduces the need for retail outlets.
- Role changes – technology is changing the way many jobs are being done, which could lead to some roles being reduced in scope, or eliminated.
What is driving these changes?
Technology is one of the main drivers. Some examples include:
- Cloud accounting / book keeping – this has the capacity to streamline processes, save time, and allow remote access 24 hours a day.
- Cloud / online file storage – enabling sharing of documents and files, and collaboration on projects over the internet.
- Improved communications – leading to virtual meetings, online training, webinars, video conferencing, greater use of email, virtual fax (also known as online fax), and so on.
- Social media – providing opportunities for online teamwork and networking.
- Mobile devices – enabling workers to be online and connected virtually anywhere at any time, without the need to access a desktop computer.
Other drivers include that of the difficulty in obtaining suitable employment which can lead to people looking for other ways of making a living, and cultural shifts within workplaces such as a desire for greater autonomy and flexibility.
How this could affect SMEs
Some of the benefits of adapting to these shifts include:
- Greater competitiveness due to improved / more streamlined processes and productivity.
- Lower costs resulting from a reduced need for office space, software and machinery such as fax machines and servers.
- Happier and more productive employees as they are provided with greater flexibility and become generators of ideas rather than merely producers of work.
These types of shifts won’t suit every type of industry or business of course, nor every workplace situation. However, business owners who take a flexible and adaptable approach rather than a rigid one to the changing world of work may be able to reap some of these rewards.
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